The good folks over at Novel Adventurers asked me to chat about my racing past last week and it's something I don't think I went into over here, so I thought I'd do it now.
Like most events in my life, things happen by accident and motor racing was no different. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in motorsport. I was a fan since I was around ten. Being a typical little boy, anything that went fast fascinated me whether it was cars, planes, boats, or anything else you care to name. I don’t know if this had something to do with the fact that no one in my family possessed a driver’s license or a car.
While I loved watching Formula One, my heart belonged to rallying and off road racing. The unpredictability of a rally stage appealed to me more than circuit racing. So I was an avid fan, with never a thought of taking part myself. That changed when I was nineteen. I wasn’t content to sit on the sidelines. I wanted a racing experience. I signed up for a rally driving training course and a circuit racing one. As much as I wanted to rally cars, my skills for off road driving were okay, but my circuit racing performance was pretty good.
That track day made me wonder if I should go the extra mile and switch from avid fan to competitor. I spent a couple of months exploring the notion of buying a single seater racecar and to be honest, I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. Then the unpredictable element of life took over and I received a call from the owner of the racing school, who wondered if I’d be interested in a 50% share in a Formula Ford and to team up for a season. I mulled the idea over and said yes. A few weeks later, I owned a racecar.
I think the partnership with an experienced driver was a good one. An older and wiser head meant my introduction to motor racing was a smooth one. I think if I’d gone it alone, I would have made some costly mistakes. With what I learned, the following year, I went out on my own running the car myself with a small crew consisting of a couple of friends, my dad, and myself.
I can say racing changed my life. When things went well, I don’t think I experienced highs like it. Also I don’t think I’ve suffered lows like it either when things didn’t go well. But racing changed me as a person. The biggest thing racing did for me was it improved me as a person. I’m not sure it made me a grown up, but it built character. I learned how to handle pressure (self imposed or otherwise), I was more inventive, and it made me come out of my shell in some respects. My day-to-day life got easier, because the problems I’d experience during a race meeting were more intense compared to my day job. So I’ll always be thankful to motor racing for that.
I raced for three years but stopped when the money ran out. While I did have sponsors, I was still the underwriter and the only investor. I’d seen a lot of guys get themselves into serious debt and I wasn’t about to follow them down that dark hole. The ugly side of motorsport is that it’s addictive. You just don’t want to quit. So, after a crash on Brand’s Hatch’s Grand Prix circuit, when I knew all the money had run out, I called it quits. It’s a decision I’m happy I made and one I still regret. Racing decisions are like that.
At the end of the day, I can’t say I blew the motor racing world away, but I held my own. I wish I could have kept at it longer and started earlier, but it is what it is. That’s not to say that if someone offered me a drive tomorrow, I wouldn’t take it.